PALM SPRINGS: Digital traffic fraud is at "crisis" levels and must be addressed by publishers, agencies and exchanges, a senior executive has argued at the 2014 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting.

"We have taken a perfect product and by our own actions have made it imperfect," Vivek Shah, the in-coming chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told delegates at the organisation's annual conference, being held in Palm Springs, California.

Shah, who is also ceo of digital media company Ziff Davis, Inc., went further in describing the problems facing the digital ad sector, asserting that "traffic fraud has reached crisis proportions". (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: Traffic fraud cripples digital: Insights from the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting 2014.)

He quoted figures from research firm comScore suggesting that 36% of traffic is now generated by machines, not by humans. "That's astonishing," Shah observed.

Publishers, ad exchanges and buyers - such as agencies, trading desks and advertising re-targeters - all have a role to play in tackling this issue, he continued.

Failing to overcome the problem of "bot" traffic threatens to worsen the current tendency to clutter pages with too many units, dividing the "user's attention between multiple advertisers and filling those units with uninspired creative."

Among the other subjects covered by Shah was a related complaint - namely, that many mobile ads are deeply unsatisfactory. The IAB discussed this matter in fuller terms via an open letter to advertisers.

"With consumers accustomed to content tailored to their time, place and interests, most mobile ads are peculiarly one-dimensional," the IAB said.

It went on to recommend that advertisers push agencies to develop creative in a mobile-compatible format, and ideally HTML5, which is "the one open, industry-standard, universal format".

The IAB pointed out that nearly half of the US population possess a web-connected phone, and 20% of page views are now attributable to mobile devices. "The opportunity has never been greater," it declared.

The co-signatories of the letter included AOL, Condé Nast, Forbes, Google, IDG, Millennial Media, Slate, The New York Times, Time Inc. and The Wall Street Journal.

Data sourced from IAB, Advertising Age; additional content by Warc staff